Madeira

Lush, mountainous and blessed with a kind of gentle, almost other worldly serenity, Madeira is the only Portuguese member of the Canary Islands. And, although it is relatively close to neighbours such as Lanzarote and Tenerife, it is a million miles removed in temperament and style.

You can go and see the beautiful fishing village of Camara de Lobos, painted by Winston Churchill many times after the end of the Second World War, or you might want to consider taking in the amazing panorama from atop the cliff at Cabao Girao. At eighteen hundred feet high, it is the second highest in all of Europe.

Lovers of nostalgia could take afternoon tea on the terrace of the world famous Reid’s Hotel, with its Olympian views out across the harbour. Lovers of wine should not miss a trip to the wine cellars in the pretty, flower filled capital of Funchal, to try and perhaps buy the local Malmsey wine.

Funchal itself is cradled at the base of several mountains that give it the feel of a fabulous ocean side theatre. Clean, compact and dignified, the city is one of the most appealing anywhere in Europe. Central to the city, and well worth checking out, is the 15th century Se cathedral.

The city centre is a quaint, enduring confection of cobbled squares flanked by sturdy, white painted buildings, many of them boasting wooden balconies that are festooned with flowers. In some ways, both the capital and the island feel like a genteel throw back to a more sedate time.

You could stroll the vibrant, technicolor largesse of the beautifully fragrant botanical gardens, or enjoy the world famous, thrilling toboggan ride. The spectacular new waterfront promenade gives the city a whole new aspect, with numerous bars and restaurants flanking the sea front in the area of the botanical gardens and the lido.

The lido is the main leisure and relaxation area of the capital. With a beautiful harbour studded with elegant white yachts and numerous water front cafes, this is a perfect place for a little platinum chip people watching.

You should certainly be on deck for the approach to the harbour, which is truly spectacular. The pier itself is a slightly uneven, uphill walk into the town of between fifteen and twenty minutes, and not recommended for anyone with disabilities. However, there are more than enough taxis on hand to take you into town, usually at a cost of around 7.5 euros per taxi.

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